When voters head to the polls in the German state of Saarland later this month, they are likely to deliver an upset to Chancellor Angela Merkel that could be a foretaste of September’s national election.
One of Germany’s smallest states, Saarland is currently governed by a ‘grand coalition’ of Merkel’s conservatives and the Social Democrats (SPD).
But polls suggest a left-leaning ‘red-red-green’ alliance of the SPD, the far-left Linke party and the Greens – or even a ‘red-red’ coalition if the Greens fail to win enough votes – could emerge after the state votes on March 26. And while obstacles remain, the parties seem to be warming to the idea of cooperating.
The vote in Saarland, the first of three regional elections this year, is seen as a test for the federal election on September 24 in which Merkel is standing for a fourth term.
National polls suggest ‘red-red-green’ could just about get a majority in the Bundestag, the lower house of parliament.
Above all, Saarland is the first electoral test of the SPD under its new leader Martin Schulz, who has helped the party climb 10 points in opinion polls in the last eight weeks and hopes to oust Merkel.